(BPT) – Inspiring kids’ interest in science, technology, engineering and math (STEM) now could help prepare them for the jobs of tomorrow. Data from the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics shows that occupations related to STEM are projected to grow 13 percent by 2022 — faster than projections for all other occupations over the same time.
Although the need for professionals with STEM experience is growing, a recent survey of U.S. high school students shows that only 24 percent of boys and 11 percent of girls are interested in STEM careers. Research also shows that youth who have extracurricular STEM experiences before graduating from high school are more likely to explore higher education and career opportunities in STEM.
To help meet the future demand for tech leaders, private companies are stepping up to help inspire kids’ passion for STEM and develop the next generation of skilled professionals. HughesNet, America’s No. 1 choice for satellite Internet, supports 4-H, America’s largest, positive youth development organization, to give youth across the U.S. the opportunity to engage in STEM activities. Since 2014, the two organizations have worked together to increase youth access to STEM education and, this year, introduced STEM Lab, a free online resource offering exciting, hands-on activities for youth ages 4 to 16.
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“I found great activities for my kids on the STEM Lab website,” said Tracy Colliton, a mom from Maryland who tried the STEM Lab projects with her preschool-aged daughters. “STEM is exciting when you can teach ideas through hands-on activities that engage all the senses. They loved the Fizzy Foam Fun and Windmill experiments, and I will be on the lookout for the next cool project.”
With STEM Lab, parents are empowered to guide their children’s early exposure to STEM, which is proven to increase their chances of pursuing those fields. Each STEM Lab activity includes easy, step-by-step instructions, discussion questions to help guide the experiential learning process and clear explanations of the scientific concepts at work. In addition, each activity includes a list of supplies, which are mostly basic household items, and a “Messy Meter,” ranging from “clean” to “mega mess,” to help parents plan their budding scientists’ activity. And to keep kids immersed and excited, new projects are added regularly for continual enrichment.
“HughesNet wants to ensure that all children, no matter where they live, have access to hands-on, experiential STEM learning,” said Peter Gulla, senior vice president of marketing at Hughes.
“It is a part of our company’s larger commitment to bridging the technology divide. Kids who tap into their curiosity and enthusiasm for STEM now will grow into the leaders of tomorrow — ensuring our country stays competitive in the global economy and powering our connected future.”
Another fun way for kids to get involved in STEM is 4-H National Youth Science Day. Celebrated throughout October, this program centers on the “Code Your World” four-part challenge.
“Code Your World” teaches kids and teens with little to no coding experience to apply computer science to the world around them with fun, interactive challenges. For instance, “Code Your Dance,” an unplugged activity, uses the power of dance to teach concepts like algorithms, loops and conditionals. With another activity, “Color Your World,” kids color and create maps to learn about graph theory, patterns and algorithms.
Teachers and parents interested in National Youth Science Day can participate online or buy activity kits, which include supplies for up to 10 participants.